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If you grew up poor...

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
If you grew up poor, what did you learn that can help people in our current financial difficulties? My mother grew up during the Depression, and we were on welfare the whole time I was growing up, back when it meant almost no money.

1. Five dollars buys very little steak, but a lot of beans.

2. Use it up, wear it out, make it do.

3. If you have a job, be a good employee.

Let's hear yours!
post #2 of 27
Know the difference between what you really need and what you just want.

I think that is something a lot of people need to learn. I can't believe the things people think they "need"!
post #3 of 27
Originally Posted by mschauer View Post
Know the difference between what you really need and what you just want.

I think that is something a lot of people need to learn. I can't believe the things people think they "need"!
I agree with this one very strongly. We all have way too much "stuff" IMO. I've been trying to drum into my daughter that she needs to concentrate on what she NEEDS rather than what she WANTS because she cannot afford to buy what she wants.
post #4 of 27
1. Learn to sew - you'd be suprised how much life is left in something after a little repair.

2. No name/store brand food geneally tastes the same as name brand.

3. Buy in bulk, cook in bulk and freeze it. It can get you throught the really lean weeks.
post #5 of 27
My parents also grew up in the great depression, and my mom grew up basically homeless - her mom was an invalid, her brother mentally handicapped and her dad was nowhere to be found. At the age of 9 she was the head of her family. I was always fascinated by the stories she would tell about her childhood.

Be grateful for anything that you have, regardless of how humble it is.

Hand me downs make great clothing.

Money can be found in unexpected ways if you get creative about it. Mom used to feed her family by cashing in on returnable bottles found in the alleys of Chicago.

Take care of what you possess. Fix something rather than throwing it out and buying it new.

Who cares about the Jones next door.

Volunteer your time for a return of things you need.

And absolutely agree with the figure out the difference between what you need and what you want.
post #6 of 27
I did grow up poor.

- there is NO shame in going to foodbanks
- there is NO shame in going to secondhand store

- NN kraft dinner with cut up hotdogs in it is yummy. (staple in our house. costs roughly $2.50 to feed a family of 4)
- go to a butcher
- garden
- cheap meals do NOT have to be unhealthy (ex. last night our supper was "mushroom stew".... potatoes $1.00 or less, ground beef $2.00, 2can mushroom soup $1.00, can of peas $.69, can of mushrooms $0.69 Total $5.38 which fed family of 4 PLUS leftovers for another meal)

- learn to sew (patch up your pants, fix holes, etc.)

- conserve heat/hydro by lowering the heat and wear a sweater and slippers.

Alot of this is what I practice today. Most of our meals cost $5-6 for a family of 4 and have all the food groups in them. We don't buy clothes, we fix what we have and buy from secondhand or sale items when we do need clothes.

We are in a good financial position currently. We can afford to go out and buy new items... we chose not to because I can get just as good quality of clothing at the secondhand store for 1/4 of the price. We may not always be in a good financial situation, so why overspend now and incur debt when we could end up in a bad spot.
post #7 of 27
My father was born in 1923 and grew up during the Great Depression. He has always worked hard, saved money, bought land as an investment, and never ever played the stock market!

He taught me to pay cash and not use credit. He still says if you can't buy it with cash, you can't afford it, so you can't have it yet!
post #8 of 27
As the youngest of six children we economize where we could.

We gardened and froze and canned our food. Today my husband and I are still eating the fruits and vegatables I canned last summer. A little bit of land with some sun can yeild quite a bit of vegetables which are expensive in the store.

Portion. You don't need a 12 ounce steak. We had three squares a day but not until we were sick and a little bit of meat can be stretched a long way with vegetables and some starches. (We did eat alot of starches growing up but we worked it off taking care of the animals and garden. Today I have to limit the starches but I like vegatables.)

Plan. Most impulse buys were because we waited to the last minute and did not take advantage of sales or coupons.

Creative leftovers. We never threw food out we reinvented it the next day. My husband and I call it market basket from our fridge.

I don't buy unless I have the cash. I have no credit card debt and my husband has been paying his off and is almost done with debt from before our marriage.

Clothes. I bought classic pieces and acessorize according to season. I may not look Sex in the City but I pull together well and take care of my clothes.

I take care of all my belongings. I spend good money on stuff and don't want to have to spend money to replace thing due to preventable incidents.
post #9 of 27
Originally Posted by mrblanche View Post
If you grew up poor, what did you learn that can help people in our current financial difficulties? My mother grew up during the Depression, and we were on welfare the whole time I was growing up, back when it meant almost no money.

1. Five dollars buys very little steak, but a lot of beans.

2. Use it up, wear it out, make it do.

3. If you have a job, be a good employee.

Let's hear yours!
I like #3.
I had to take on a part-time job to help out with finances. I HATE it. It's doing retail inventories- and it is the MOST BORING job in the world. However, it's a couple hundred a week that we were not getting.

What I can't understand is this. We were talking before starting work this morning, and someone was telling me that new people aren't showing up for work. Ok- so do that. But don't come complaining because there is NOTHING out there- and you had to burn a bridge b/c you hated the job.

post #10 of 27
Part of my childhood, the earlier part, I was pretty well off, but my dad was unemployed while I was in high school and college, and things were really tough at times. At that age, I found it really difficult, especially when I was surrounded by much more affluent peers.

Originally Posted by Snake_Lady View Post
- there is NO shame in going to foodbanks
- there is NO shame in going to secondhand store

You said it, right there. Those are the two big ones, for me, with an aside: I discovered that while it's possible to eat healthy on a shoestring budget, our culture and economy is really geared against it... as my spouse said the other day, McDonald's is cheap because it's all made from govt. subsidized food (there's corn or corn oil in everything, even the beef because the cows eat the corn...)

But secondhand stores... wow. I learned that you can find really awesome deals on good clothing, especially at the goodwill stores. I'm a musician... I got my first two tuxedos used for around $50... (at Ardvark's in the Haight in SF)... even now I buy lots of things on eBay, and not just clothing.

Taking care of your stuff, rather than buying new stuff... that one I've kept with me, with a degree of tenacity that amazes some of my friends. I only own cars that I can do most or all of the maintenance and repairs on without having to pay a mechanic (that has its ups and downs, but i'm proud of it). I've done some insane computer repairs... Apple quoted me $900 to fix the dying backlight in my old iBook's display, but the new fluorescent light tube was only $12, so I installed it myself, which involved taking apart the entire top half of the laptop and removing the backlight panel from the LCD... a hair raising experience, but it saved me $888 and kept my computer viable for another year.

I learned the true value of the Library, both for useful information and for entertainment. Of course, your mileage may vary by location... Most of the movies I watch are still from the library (and because of that, I do without cable TV).

I also learned the true value of the internet and of search engines... and of keeping a computer that's sufficiently up-to-date. Oh, and I learned a lot about *Free Software*... not pirated, the actual free kind. Linux operating systems instead of Windows, OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office... for the better part of a year, which i think was in 1998-1999, I did the vast majority of my computing on a 25mhz 486 PC, running slackware linux, and mostly using the command line instead of x-windows. And I'm very proud of that.

Most of all, I learned the value of higher education, which my dad didn't have, despite vast knowledge and skill in his field (computer technology, misc).

I'm glad I had the experience of being poor during my late-childhood... not to say that I'm glad that I was poor, but the experience taught me a lot of the things that make my quality of living better than it would otherwise be on the money I earn.
post #11 of 27
^The best part about open source software - you're usually not agreeing to ridiculous user agreements. I build and fix my own computers, too, there's just no sense in paying someone else to do it and waiting forever for them to get around to it.

I wasn't exactly poor growing up, the bills were always paid on time and in full, but we certainly didn't have a lot of money for anything else.

Originally Posted by mrblanche View Post
2. Use it up, wear it out, make it do.
I do this, the only problem is that this being drilled into my head from a young age now makes it difficult for me to throw away anything that can be fixed or reused. I'm not an ocd pack rat, but it's a bit silly to see what I save.

Originally Posted by Ms. Freya View Post
3. Buy in bulk, cook in bulk and freeze it. It can get you throught the really lean weeks.
Deep freezers are perfect for this, and our deep freezer was second hand given to us by a family member, too.

Often big appliances can be fixed or even fixed and given to someone who may really need it. Cheaper and you're not filling up a landfill with these items.
Think on that before running out to buy a new washer and dryer because your old set isn't a shiny modern front loader with at least two dozen unneeded settings on it.

And along that line, don't wash a bunch of little loads.

I was taught the value of taking care of things, too. I may have been an only child, but I wasn't spoiled. If I even accidentally broke one of my toys or stained a shirt I got in trouble for it.

Have to add - Recognizing and not falling for marketing gimmicks.
post #12 of 27
I try to buy things in bulk when I can so that I can think ahead when it comes to planning out meals for those weeks when we don't have the extra money. I tend to cook enough to make leftovers for at least one extra meal. For example - I buy big pieces of meat like london broil and I portion it out before I freeze it - you'd be surprised at how many nights of "steak" you can get out of one. I also plan ahead before I go to the store - I go with a list and I buy things that are either on sale or that I have coupons for. I get what's on my list and nothing else.

I have a houseful of second-hand furniture. Everything in my living room except one of my bookcases was free, and in an odd turn of circumstance, it's all the same color. There's no shame in having second-hand things, and I believe that if you really need something and someone else is generous enough to want give it to you, then you should take it. I also have great relatives that have gotten us a lot of things that we just wouldn't have been able to afford (like a new bed).

I haven't bought myself clothes in years. I keep fixing the ones I have.

I have never owned a new car in my life - all of them have been used. Both of our vehicles are older, but they're 100% paid for, and my hubby does all of our maintenance; that in itself saves us a ton of money.

I stopped using the dryer when I do laundry - that in itself saves me between $3 and $6 a week. I have lots of hangers and a clothes rack - I just hang it all up to dry in the house. The bonus is having a house that smells like nice clean laundry.
post #13 of 27
My parents were also depression era kids and Mom also blamed her "Scots" ancestry for her penny pinching abilities.

Learn to do without. - I may not have had all I wanted, but I did have a home and parents and pets.
post #14 of 27
i didnt grow up poor but i am now after a few good job losses i learned some good tips:

1. dollar store- i visit the dollar store 1x per week, u can find alot of things there for alot cheaper than a regular toys..etc.

2. food- if it gets really bad its ramen noodles and 1.00 banquet dinners for the week. also look into cheaper foods, like i started eating oatmeal for breakfast, i have a nice tuna salad for lunch and then a cheap frozen dinner for work, i at least try to keep some of my diet healthy. NEVER waste leftovers, if family cooks dinner and offers u some to take home, dont be shy, take it!

3. clothing- i used to be very careless not only with clothes but all my belongings and was into buying brand names, now when i shop i dont buy anything unless its on sale, and i take very good care of all my clothes.

4. prepaid cell phone- i save tons of money this way.

5. buy in bulk- if u can afford it, get a membership to sams club, i go once a month and get the things that are cheaper there, but watch! some stuff is actually more than in a regular grocery store. learn to look for the deals on food, i have most of all my grocery prices memorized for 2 different stores, the grocery stores are very close to each other so i can go into one and then the other and save money.

6. general- i take very good care of all my belongings, i used to be careless and misplace things and go out and buy more, now i take special care of everything!

7. lots of nites in- me and BF spend alot of weekends in anymore. i barely drink anymore.

8. dont be afraid to check out the salvation army for clothes.

9. i now turn the lights out and heat way down when i go out

its really amazing how u learn to make do when things get tough, and i know one thing, when things get easier for me, im going to remember my ways and save money
post #15 of 27
A tip for those who rent. Keep track of the dvds or games, take care of them - you don't want to pay to replace them, and do whatever you have to do to make sure that you do not lose track of when they're due back.

People end up spending a lot of money on late fees. Often two to three times what it originally cost to rent it in the first place.
If it's a movie or game you know you'll like, and you have a habit of being forgetful, just go buy it used. It's better to spend $8-10 on something than it is to spend $13-15 and risk having it reported as stolen or on your credit.
post #16 of 27
You can do a lot with potatoes/carrots/onions and beans/rice. And they're all pretty cheap. You can also make your own bread and have really nice bread for very little $.
Check the grocery stores for sales, whole chickens are great, you can roast them/bake etc and then make soup out of the bones and leftover meat.
Sams Club/Costco type places are also good choices if you can afford the membership, but make sure you check prices, sometimes they are more expensive than a regular store.
Think about conserving gas, plan all the stops you need to make and do it in one day, instead of running back and forth all over town all week to pick up a few little things.
post #17 of 27
FIL is a bargain hunter, he is currently making us a bed that will cost us less than $30, it is so good he is a handy worker.

every month this magazine comes out called recipes, it has a lot of recipes to feed a whole family for under $4, it is all soo delicious.
I've started taking better care of my clothes. I do have an addiction to buying new clothes, but i am better off taking hubby with me because he gets annoyed at shopping. Then i cant buy anything

We barely go out anymore because everything is so expensive and we are still living with the inlaws, we are saving to eventually buy a house.

While i was growing up in italy we were so poor, i had hand me downs from the other kids in class, and i remember taking to school fried bread because thats all we had at home to eat for lunch!

I am also buying second hand furniture, you can sand it and repaint it and change the handles, it will look even better than you had immagined!

there are lots of ways to fill up your time thats also cheap!

I do feel like i've become stingy these days, but its only because there is not much cash flow coming from my end :S
post #18 of 27
We grew up poor. My mom was sick but my dad was sicker, so she was the only bread winner in the family and had to support the 4 of us.

We ate a lot of ground beef meals.

Perogies and cabbage rolls were staple foods in our house because they were cheap to make. We also had a lot of soups and stews.

No food went into the garbage. It was recycled into other meals.

We didn't have running water so we shared one tub of water. The cleanest bathed first, the dirtiest last.

Learn to sew. It's cheaper. Adult clothing can be cut up and children's clothing made from the fabric.

Walk where you can.

Know the difference between wants and needs.

Don't worry about what your neighbours have. Live within your means.

A single gift under the tree for you is better than no gifts. And can be just as fun when surrounded by people that you love and who love you.

Keep things in perspective. Despite how poor you are, there are others who are in worse situations.

And most importantly, if and when things improve, remember where you came from and show compassion and generosity.
post #19 of 27
Don't be scared (or too lazy) to work more than one job.
post #20 of 27
We weren't poor, but we were lucky enough to own our house outright (Dad built it), so Mom saved her paychecks. We always lived simply, though. Dad was a steelworker; Mom, a nurse. We never ate fancy food, and a restaurant meal was McDonald's, but we were happy with it. We wore clothes from K-Mart, but always had decent, newer clothes. Dad was a kid during the Depression; Mom is British, and lived through rationing in WWII, so they knew a thing or two about thriftiness. I was lucky to have been born very late in their lives, when they were much better off--my 3 younger brothers weren't always as lucky, esp. the 2 oldest ones. Dad would put kerosene in the gas tank of their car, as they could not always afford gas. Mom & Dad both worked 2 jobs then.

I think the most important thing I learned: save your money for your retirement. Start saving while very young, and don't get into debt. My parents never owned a credit card. They paid cash for cars.

I am thrifty, but not miserly. I know when to cut loose, and enjoy my money, but in a thrifty, sensible way. My Mom doesn't, though, and does some odd stuff, like making me use tea bags over (even though SHE does not drink tea!)--which I wouldn't do. She also likes to wear shabby, stained nightgowns, even though she has 12 others (brand-new) in a drawer, and makes a big deal of it, to get sympathy, I think.
post #21 of 27
My Mom saved dimes for 3 years and bought herself a dishwasher. I didn't know we were poor. Grandma sewed our dresses. I just thought it was because Grandma loved us . Mom had a huge garden and greenhouse. Dad hunted, we all fished to fill the freezer .We were brought up not to waste anything. We didn't have a lot of toys and clothes , but we had a lot of great family time. I was telling my kids this morning. We didn't have a tobboggan for sliding. We grabbed a cardboard box and went. There are so many things we can easily do with out. I think being a good employee is so important. They will get rid of the lazy, unreliable person first.
post #22 of 27
While we weren't poor growing up mom sewed the majority of our clothes up to 7th grade!!
We had a huge veg garden ( and I still do) and canned/froze much of veg. Big root cellar too. While we had oil heat dad put in a wood stove and cut his own wood (like us today).
He didn't hunt but we had fish and would buy 1/4 beef for the big freezer which they would cut/wrap themselves.
We had enough land that dad grew christmas trees for sale which paid for our weddings.
Hung the clothes on the line outside to dry in the summer instead of using the dryer.
I had their last clothes dryer-from the last 70's and used for another 20+ years after they gave it to me.
post #23 of 27
Second hand/thrift shops are fabulous places to shop. In fact, I just came from the Salvation Army store where I bought 7 cross stitch magazines for a quarter each (newstand price? $5.95 each!)

Yard sales are also great.

I sewed my own clothes all thru high school. Not only could I have a new outfit/dress every week for just a couple of dollars, I could also make it as short as I wanted (this was in the 70s---dresses had to be short )

Gardens aren't just for growing flowers. It's amazing to go into your own yard and pick strawberries for breakfast, and lettuce & tomoatoes for a salad.

If someone wants to give you something take it, even if you don't need it. Odds are you'll be able to pass it along to someone who can use it. Don't throw away anything that is still usable.
post #24 of 27
Make a list before you go to the grocery store. Stick to it. It's very easy to overspend on impulse buys without a list to keep you on budget. Keep a running total in your head to avoid surprises at the check out stand.

Use coupons as much as possible.

Learn to cook from scratch.
post #25 of 27
See if your community has a "freecycle" program. Great stuff for free when you take the time to look thru the online postings.

Google "freecycle" and your cities name to find it.
post #26 of 27
Lessons I learned from my parents:
- If you aren’t going to die (or be physically harmed by) not having it, you (probably) don’t really need it.
- Eat all of your food at mealtime. Snacks are expensive.
- Take care of your things. Repair when possible. Its cheaper to take a little care than to buy new.
- If it still works, you don’t need a new one yet.
- Thrift Stores/Flea Markets/Garage Sales are like treasure hunts. There is nothing wrong with buying things there.
- Make a list before going shopping for anything (not just groceries). Don’t buy anything that isn’t on the list.
- Pay with cash. Bring only as much money as you need and leave your checkbook/debit/credit card at home.
- Avoid impulse buys by writing it down and going home to sleep on it. If you really need it you can go get it tomorrow.

Things my parents did growing up:
Bought all of us Jansport (lifetime warranty) backpacks when I was in elementary school for $35 each. This way they didn’t have to buy us new $8-12 bags every year. If something went wrong with them, we sent them back for warranty repair. I still have that backpack.

Saved money on kids’ allowance (up until our teens anyway…). Instead of giving us actual money every week as a reward they gave us poker chips which we kept in a jar. Then they made a ‘shopping’ list of what you could buy with chips that you saved up over time. Toys, trip to the $1 movie, etc. It took 3months of great behavior to earn something that might cost my parents $15 and we had no problem with it. If they had given us all $5/week they would have spent $60/month for all of us, but this way they still taught us to save our ‘money’ without having to spend that.

Things I do now:
I swap clothes with one of my friends that wears the same size. We both take great care of our clothes so every few months we go ‘shopping’ in each other’s closet. We each get something ‘new’ and different to wear, but its free! Things that are originally ours become new again since they are gone for awhile. Sometimes we go to the thrift store and split the cost since we will share and each take ½ the find home!

I trade my time with friends and family. I do for them and they for me in turn. My dad does all the work on my car in return for me petsitting when he goes out of town, my accountant brother does my taxes for free in return for me babysitting occasionally, etc.

I created my budget by starting with how much I wanted to save and calculating my expenses around that, rather than looking at what I needed to spend and calculating what I could save out of that.

I 'freecycle' and check Craigslist for furniture/small electronics before buying new.

I’m sure there’s more. A few sacrifices go a long way!
post #27 of 27
I don't know that we were poor, necessarily. We certainly had our share of economic downturns, but there were people who had it worse.

And that's my big thing right grateful for what you have. It's easy to complain about your house, your car, your job, but try to remember that there are people out there who would be thrilled to live in even your modest house, who would love to have any car at all, and would kill to have a job like yours.
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